Asking for reccomended reading for Atheists.

What should an Atheist read that is relevant to atheism?

I own ‘Origin of Species’

On a completely different note I own the ‘His Dark Materials’ trillogy.
What would you reccomend I own/read? Preferably stuff to inflate my atheist ego, but I would also welcome books that might make me think twice about my choice of belief system. (FYI lack of belief counts as a belief. I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no supreme being that could be called ‘God’ which created everything.

When I was an atheist, I read quite a few books published by Prometheus.

Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Sagan’s novel Contact is very good and it deals with the concept of faith and belief in several ways. Different types of beliefs are represented as well as different ‘degrees’ of belief (Christian zealots, moderates, New-Agey types). The protagonist is atheist and faces obstacles because of this, but the story isn’t “Christians Bad, Atheists Good.” The so-so movie does not include the very interesting final chapter from the book. In fact, I still find the ending surprising considering Sagan’s atheism.

Pretty much anything else by Sagan.


Another vote for Demon-Haunted World.

An interesting and entertaining work of fiction for you (with historical inclusions that may even be quite accurate) is A History Of The World In 10½ Chapters by Julian Barnes - it touches on a number of religious themes but from an angle I think you’ll find quite satisfying.

In addition to Demon Haunted World, I’d also specifically recommend Billions and Billions, Sagan’s last book.

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth comes to mind as well.

On oldie but goodie is The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine.

One of the best ones out there is Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith.


Another nod for Sagan, and Smith’s Case Against God
I also have read some Russell and a little Nietzsche Thus Spake Zarathustra and would recommend them both.

I would also recommend Dawkin’s, who is criticized for his scathing comments on dogmatic religion, but as an ex-evangelicalist I find them rather amusing. But he does have the same love and awe of nature that Sagan has, I mean had… That is a reference to another author you should check out if you haven’t yet and that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Or Dawkins… doh!

In opposition to your system of beliefs, you could try Francis Schaeffer, either The God Who is There or Escape from Reason. Plus, there is the prerequisite Mere Christianity by Lewis.

In other directions, I enjoy both Joseph Campbell and Karen Armstrong. Plus, the Tao of Pooh is an intriguing look at Taoism. How accurate, I can’t say, but I found it enlightening.

You should be familiar with the holy books of all the major world religions–so the Bible, the Qur’an, the Tao, etc.

The preamble to Murray v. Curlett (about half-way down the linked page).

Reading any of the major atheist or skeptic web sites is usually worth the time, such as the material on American Atheists web site.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about A History of God, but haven’t read it myself yet.

Since this is Cafe Society, from what I remember was that there was a big to-do brewing about the ending of “Contact” (possibly the most disappointing ending to a movie in my life), but that it fizzled once Sagan discovered he had cancer (or it had advanced to such a point that he could no longer be bothered.)

Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian,” is very good. A vote against Smith. I found his reasoning to be very weak - for instance he “proves” that the universe has always been here.

But a third or a fourth for Sagan and Tom Paine. Paine was not an atheist (I think he would be one today, though) but his criticisms of the Bible are things you still here today.

To truly get aa firm grounding for your atheism, study up on the sociology of religion. Books such as The Handbook of the Sociology of Religion contain careful explanations of how the major religions were formed and altered over the centuries for the convenience of each new generation. By seeing inarguable evidence that people have shaped religion since the outset, the argument that it’s eternal and unchanging, and thus God-given, crumbles down. I also recommend When Time Shall be no More by Paul Boyer, which I view as the last word on all end-times related nonsense.

After that, I feel I should put in a word or two for the classics. Bone up on some Erasmus, Maimonides, Voltaire, Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Hegel.

In literature, try Candide, by Voltaire, and Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.

I don’t know if it is still in print but I found the Atheist’s Debaters Handbook to be quite deep.

If you’re looking for readable books on evolution, Stephen Jay Gould is pretty entertaining, though not kids’ stuff.

Even better perhaps is Matt Ridley’s ‘The Origins of Virtue’ - a fascinating discussion of human/animal behaviour in the natural world, which nicely turns the concept of ‘Original Sin’ on its head.

But on a different tack, Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ is perfect in my opinion for a darkly humorous and insightful existential tale. Then again, you probably read that years ago…

All of these authors would point out that the question of God’s existence is only covered insofar as scientific explanations make Him unnecessary, but:
[ul][li]Cosmology: A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell - Hawking. The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene.[/li][li]Star/planet/continent/dinosaur formation - A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bryson (although he gets some Big Bang stuff wrong IMO by positing a nothing-to-something transition.)[/li][li]Evolution: The Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins. You already own Darwin.[/li][li]Consciousness: How The Mind Works - Pinker. (For balance, The Mind Does Not Work Like That! - Fodor). Consciousness Explained - Dennet.[/li]Divine/supernatural experiences: Phantoms in the Brain - Ramachandran. Why People Believe Weird Things - Shermer.[/ul]

I’m surprised that (Sir) Ludovic Kennedy’s All in the Mind isn’t better known. It is a fairly brief but interesting read. Here is an ateist site’s review with a link to Amazon.

Another vote for Gould.